Many Truths and One Truth
There is a common trope that the Thanksgiving table is a battlefield of polarized ideas and archenemy uncles. At the base of that meme is the idea that there are multiple truths, a sensation that appears to be proliferating.
One thing I’ve heard a number of times over the last several weeks is that Israel has gone from being a country on the brink of civil war to the most united it is has been in it’s modern history. Political enemies now share tight spaces in tanks. Ideologically opposed culinary geniuses have broken bread to serve (kosher) food to soldiers and those in need. Revered luxury hotels have opened their doors to displaced friends from the geographical and economic periphery.
The same is true on the other side of the Atlantic.
American Jews have rallied around Israel in a way I have never seen in my lifetime. As one philanthropist said to me recently, “If Israel wanted American Jews to build them the Taj Mahal, all they would have to do is ask.”
Perhaps, then, our Thanksgiving tables will be more united than ever. At least I’d hope that to be true. The existential threat to Israel’s existence may be the right opportunity to put our nuanced differences aside.
Look to your social media feeds for those who truly see the world differently. The people ripping down signs of hostages, the college students chanting for Israel’s annihilation, the ‘diversity’ professionals delegitimizing antisemitism.
I know there are families who aren’t homogenous, even extreme examples. One (Jewish) friend told me of the discomfort in sharing dinner with his Palestinian brother in law, another about his commune cousins who don’t believe in Israel’s right to exist. Let those examples remain extreme.
One aspect of Judaism that I’ve always been super proud of is that we have Thanksgiving weekly — we call it Shabbat. We get together, we cook, we eat, we talk, we drink, we lazily creep towards the nearest couch. Like Thanksgiving, stores aren’t even “open” on Shabbat. Shabbat, like Thanksgiving, is all consuming. Let Shabbat act as our blueprint.
Rashi (a medieval commentary on the Jewish Canon) explains that one of the reasons we light Shabbat candles is to promote peace in the home — “and in a place where there is no candle, there is no peace,” (Tractate Shabbat 25a). Rashi explains that a home needs to be illuminated so that people can easily make their way around the house without bumping into each other. In other words, we bring light into our homes in order to avoid friction.
Returning to the idea of many truths. A few weeks ago, Peggy Noonan wrote an op-ed in the WSJ where she postured that perhaps Israel will win over time because of it’s commitment to truth. It’s a commitment to values, values that Judaism introduced to the world thousands of years ago.
We have to hold that idea as sacrosanct.
Has there been a prouder moment for American Jewry than the way in which we collectively carried ourselves during the rally in Washington DC?
Our commitment to derech eretz, menschlichkeit, goodness, is paramount. It needs to start in our homes, communities, schools, and shuls.
While I long for the day where petty and not so petty internal arguments reign supreme, today we aren’ there.
It is imperative that we keep the visual of those Shabbat candles flickering in our eyes.